It’s been quite a week hasn’t it- politically that is. Have MPs at last had the chance to vote with their brains and consciences? I think a lot have. Seeing off May’s plan and the No Deal option are a start, asking the EU for an extension is the next. Now all they have to do is force a referendum and we have the opportunity to put across to the people what the EU does for us and why we should remain a part of it. Some will be unhappy and may even try to cause disruption but that was going to happen whatever the outcome was. I have fingers, and other bits of me, crossed but it is dreadfully close to the deadline and as I have said before it is criminal that things should have been allowed to reach this impasse.
I was at a conference earlier this week at a certain university. It was reporting on and promoting a short course on “Transgender” for staff and students. The writing team seem to have done a good bit of work but we weren’t allowed a look at the course itself. None of the team were apparently trans themselves (who can tell?) but at least one had close contact with someone who had transitioned. There were talks from a couple of trans and non-binary people and from a headmaster coping with the problems of having pupils transitioning (the pupils aren’t the problem; parents of other pupils are.) I did worry that a somewhat stereotypical picture of gender was presented. One of the speakers who had done the course, reported a session where they were asked to place themselves on a gender spectrum (1 to 12) on the basis of certain traits e.g. the length of their hair, whether they liked classic cars or football. Now this may have been an ironic take on stereotyping, but it caused me to raise my eyebrows.
The audience was largely cis-people for organisations who may adopt the course for their students or staff. There were a few trans people – at least ones I suspected of being trans. There were very few questions asked and no opinions or comments from the floor. The team were a bit self-congratulatory which seemed somewhat premature and based only on the evaluation of the pilot of the course with a small number of students and staff. I heartily endorse the need for something like this course to help spread understanding but not being able to examine the content made it a little pointless.
I am increasingly upset that the focus is almost always on trans people who wish to transition fully to the binary gender they identify with. That’s fine but we also need much more understanding about what it means to be non-binary and how it is viewed by society. As a case in point – I tried out the “facilities” at the venue. There were male toilets and female toilets and a door advertising that it was for those that required a non-gendered space. It turned out to be the room for those with disabilities. I took exception to that because a) I do not need a special loo, and b) I don’t want to be in a position of preventing someone who does need them from gaining access. So even the most trans aware organisations need to think a bit more clearly.
This week’s bit of writing needs some explanation. At last week’s writers’ group meeting we were introduced to something called a Writers’ Toolbox. I’m not sure whether it is simply a game or whether it is actually intended as a stimulus to writers. We didn’t know the rules exactly (rules? For writing?) so I took three sticks which I thought provided a first sentence, a last sentence and one for in between which sort of provided a fulcrum for the plot. The story below is the result with the relevant sentences coloured. I didn’t have a lot of time so my effort rather shoehorns the sentences together. I have since learned that the last sentence, isn’t.
It’s the Turtles
My brother did this weird thing with turtles. Some people like eating them. Me? I just enjoyed watching them, and so did Herb, my little bro, at the beginning.
We have a house, well, it’s more of a shack, right on the beach. So we’re right there when the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. They do it at night of course to avoid predators but we’re there watching, sometimes until dawn. Their slow, agonising crawl ashore is almost painful to watch. I often had the urge to run on to the sand and give them a lift, but we didn’t. Once they’ve decided they’re far enough from the high-water line they dig their shallow nests in the sand. Their flippers aren’t really designed for scooping sand, but they just get on with it. Then they lay their eggs, dozens to each female. They’re all females of course. The males stay way out at sea. Weeks later we watch the little turtles scramble up to the surface and scamper, slowly, for the safety of the sea. Many are picked off by seabirds but others make it.
First it was me and Dad who were the watchers. Then Herb joined us. After Dad died it was just the two of us. A couple of years ago we were following the leatherbacks returning to the ocean when we came across one that was struggling. The old girl was barely making any progress.
“Shall we help her,” Herb asked.
“No, we mustn’t interfere,“ I replied. “Either she makes it or she doesn’t. That’s life.”
The turtle stopped. We waited and watched but there was no movement, not even a flick of a flipper
“Is she dead?” Herb asked.
I crouched down and examined her. She looked dead. I gave her a prod with a finger. No reaction.
“I think so,” I decided.
“We can’t leave her,” Herb cried, “the gulls were peck at her. She’ll be a mess.”
“That’s how it goes,” I said, shrugging.
“No. I’m going to stuff her.” Herb bent down and picked up the leatherback. I don’t know how he did it. He was a scrawny kid and the turtle was heavy. Nevertheless, he lugged the carcase back to the house. Ma didn’t complain at all when Herb came in with a turtle in his arms. Mind you she was out of it as usual. I tried saying you can’t keep a dead turtle in the freezer, but Herb was determined. He googled “stuffing dead animals” and picked up lots of stuff on taxidermy. He watched hours of YouTube seeing how it was done. Then he started. I was surprised at how good he was. Even that first leatherback looked as though she was in the prime of life when he’d done with her. Herb became obsessed with making the dead look as though they were still alive. He became pretty expert at it and started making some much-needed cash selling his dead animals – mainly marine creatures such as the turtle and fish. He was pretty organised and made sure the freezer didn’t ice up while the animals waited to be dealt with. I preferred watching the turtles in life even if it meant seeing them die.
The number of turtles was falling. I knew that as well as their natural predators there were human ones. Some poachers trapped the adult turtles in the shallow water and others would dig up their eggs. They were the same I decided. Both were driving the creatures to extinction.
Herb was as annoyed about it as I was. We agreed we had to do something. We decided to patrol the beach after the eggs had been laid. One night we came across a bunch of guys digging the eggs up. I might have had words with them, but Herb launched himself at them. One of them pulled a gun. The sound of the shot must have been heard miles out at sea. Herb fell onto the sand. The poachers scarpered. I pulled Herb back to the house, but I knew it was no good. He was as much a goner as that leatherback.
The cops came, took a few notes but didn’t do much. Herb’s body was taken away. Me and Ma were left with our grief and a freezer of dead animals frosting up. I couldn’t deal with them the way Herb defrosted the refrigerator.